Archives for March 2018

Poem by Carol Penner – 25 March 2018

Coming to a City Near You 

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, 
the city nearest you.
Jesus comes to the gate,
to the synagogue,
to houses prepared for wedding parties,
to the pools where people wait to be healed,
to the temple where lambs are sold, to gardens, beautiful in the moonlight.
He comes to the governor’s palace. 

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, 
the city nearest you,
to new subdivisions and trailer parks,
to penthouses and basement apartments,
to the factory, the hospital and the cinema multiplex,
to the outlet centre and to churches,
with the same old same old message,
unchanged from the beginning of time. 

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, 
the city nearest you
with his Good News and…
Hope erupts! Joy springs forth!
The very stones cry out,
“Hosanna in the highest,
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The crowds jostle and push,
they can’t get close enough!
People running alongside flinging down their coats before him!
Jesus, the parade marshal,
waving, smiling.
The paparazzi elbow for room,
looking for that perfect picture for the headline,
“The Man Who Would Be King”. 

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, 
the city nearest you
and gets the red-carpet treatment.
Children waving real palm branches from the florist,
silk palm branches from Big W or Target,
palms of green construction paper.
Hosannas ringing in churches, chapels, cathedrals,
in monasteries, basilicas 
and tent-meetings.
King Jesus, honoured in a thousand hymns
in Canada, Cameroon, Calcutta and Canberra.
We LOVE this great big powerful capital
K King Jesus
coming in glory and splendour 
and majesty
and awe and power and might. 

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, 
the city nearest you.
Kingly, he takes a towel and washes feet.
With majesty, he serves bread and wine.
With honour, he prays all night.
With power, he puts on chains.
Jesus, King of all creation,
appears in state
in the eyes of the prisoner, 
the AIDS orphan, the crack addict,
asking for one cup of cold water,
one coat shared with someone who has none,
one heart, yours,
and a second mile. 

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, 
the city nearest you.
Can you see him? 

Nathan Lattimore – 18 March 2018

Dear Friends

To live is to grow. In fact, many dictionary definitions of ‘life’ mention the capacity for growth as a central characteristic; along with activity, reproduction, etc. It is striking, how well this principle also applies to our spiritual lives. Jesus Himself compares the spiritual life to that of a vine (John 15:1-7), and Scripture further urges believers to grow up in Christ, progressing from spiritual ‘milk’ to ‘solid food’ (Hebrews 5:12-14) – in context, this ‘meat’ refers to behavioural transformation; living the Gospel, instead of just ‘knowing’ it. These are just two of many passages on a similar theme.

The Gospel is not, as one friend of mine put it, simply a passport and fire insurance; the Gospel is a message of life that applies every moment of every day. As Jesus said, He came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). That is a promise that is for right now – and it is this very promise that we begin to live out, as we engage with spiritual and personal growth.

Growth can be an incredibly frustrating process for everyone though, can’t it. I remember a period of 18 months early on in my ministry, serving under the most intense mentor I have ever had. A highly strategic thinker, this mentor saw rhyme and reason behind every comment, every thought, every idea. Nothing was worth doing unless there was a very specific reason for it, which fit into a broader strategy or goal. “Why?” was his favourite retort to any new idea. Working with him was simultaneously frustrating and inspiring. The incredible part, for me, was that especially towards the end of our time in ministry together, he placed a lot of trust in me to take charge of what he had been overseeing. In other words, this hard task-master saw me arrive at a point at which in his eyes, I was capable of maintaining and growing the ministries he had led. It was a painful 18 months, to get there. Many of my assumptions about life, ministry and God were laid to rest, and replaced with new, foreign, but more effective concepts. That process was incredibly painful, and very draining. Still, this period is one I look back on now with incredible fond- ness. My mentor loved me, and he loved seeing me glow – even if it took a bit of fire and heat for me to do so.

To what extent are you engaged in the process of your own growth? In what ways has spiritual growth manifested in your life of late? In your behaviour? In your knowledge? In a deepening and enlivening of your relationships? Are you experiencing any of these signs of growth, or has it been a while since you really thought about what could be? Whether personal growth to you is an old friend, or a bit of a stranger, the good news is that God Himself is with us all – in fact, He is leading the process of our growth, every single day (Philippians 1:6).



Belinda Groves – 11 March 2018

Dear Friends

At camp, as part of our evening worship service, we ate pretzels! Pretzels are associated with Lent and we used them to engage in a Lenten exercise, of eating slowly and deliberately, thinking about the taste and the texture as we ate, because the season of Lent is not just a time of fasting and giving things up, but it is also an invitation to slow down and go more deeply into our thoughts, feelings, relationship – with God and others.  

There are other exercises which help us – to go more deeply into our thoughts and feelings and relationships – during Lent. Perhaps we could have a ‘slow conversation’ with a friend – a time when you talk slowly and thoughtfully to each other; listen very intentionally and enjoy silences. Perhaps you breathe slowly as you reflect or pray. Perhaps you could deliberately move slowly (I don’t suggest trying this in the car!) when you find yourself in a rush. Perhaps Lent is a time to think – slowly and carefully. 

I got curious this week, however, about why pretzels are a Lenten symbol. It has a little to do with pretzels not containing dairy and eggs – foods traditionally avoided during Lent – and, in the material I read before camp, I was told that ‘pretzel’ means ‘little arms’, and that pretzels were created by monks to resemble arms folded in prayer. 

It turns out, however, that the real story is more complicated. That explanation comes from a legend that in 610 AD an Italian monk invented pretzel as a reward to children who learnt their prayers and called them ‘pretiola‘ (or ‘little rewards’) But almost all the pretzel origin stories – whether they came from French monasteries or traditional Greek communion ‘ring bread’ – associate them with Christian tradition. 

The meaning ‘little arms’ isn’t Italian, but it might come from the German name ‘brezel’ from the Latin ‘bracellus’ (a medieval term for bracelet) or ‘bracchiola’ which means ‘little arms’. 

And the shape of the pretzel has another religious meaning as well. The three holes within the pretzel represent the three persons of the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

In fact, pretzels have been associated with both Lent and Easter. So much so that they were once hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today. 

All of this has made me think a lot more about pretzels, but also encouraged me to find my own practices to reflect on Lent and on my relationship with God during this season. 


Nathan Lattimore – 4 March 2018

Dear Friends

Retreat – “… the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:15-16.

Talking about rest is often like speaking another language, in the world that we live in. As people, the workplace, and even work itself, become more and more accessible through technology, the expectations to always be ‘switched on’ seem only to grow. We check our emails, arrange appointments, delegate tasks, not only while we’re “at work” now, but even from our bed, as our eyes beg to finally shut at the end of what has already been a long day. It is becoming more and more common to just be perpetually tired.

For those of us living and functioning in such a society, there is good news; very good news, in fact… we were never supposed to live this way! Isn’t that liberating? Doesn’t that explain so much about the difficulty we have? To fight the human (and divine!) need to rest is literally to drive ourselves further and further into the grave – not just physically, but also socially, emotionally, mentally – and especially spiritually.

Resting takes effort, though, doesn’t it – what a paradox. Even Jesus fought very hard for His rest. There is no question about His compassion for people. It’s not that He didn’t want to help 100% of the time; it’s that He couldn’t. Jesus couldn’t. The fact that Jesus slept on a tiny boat in the middle of a heavy storm (Matthew 8:23-37) is one indication, of many, of how much He needed rest of every kind.

Today, much of Canberra Baptist Church is away resting; taking a moment out of our year to catch our breath, at our yearly church family camp at Lake Tabourie. ‘Retreating,’ as many call this practice of taking time out, is an incredibly wise and spiritual discipline that flies in the face of the world I described above. In my experience, it is often while ‘retreating’ that God is able to finally get through to us.

God, it is said, worked six days and rested on the seventh. In other words, it wasn’t enough for God just to work. He worked for a reason; so He could enjoy everything He had done on that seventh day. It parallels to the work of Christ Himself; “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2.

It is not enough to go through life and just work. Perhaps you have been working hard lately; and maybe even for those you love dearly. Perhaps you have felt duty-bound to force your eyes to remain open, just thirty seconds longer… perhaps you have felt the pressure of assignments, and readings, and tasks, heaping up on you like a backpack full of stones. God’s message to you is not to work harder; but exactly the opposite… “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28.